Posted: December 23, 2002.
Copyright ©2002 PopEntertainment.com. All
What could be worse?
You are member of a band since high school. As you tour hard and record
your bands poppy sound and positive message starts picking up a buzz.
People want to hear what you have to say and you want to get it out to
them. You rush into the studio to put your music down on tape. But while
youre working on it your record label hits some money problems. They may
go under. Suddenly youre in limbo while lawyers and record company execs
try to hash out contracts and who has the right to your art. And you wait
For two long years.
What could be worse? How about it happening to your band
Thats what happened to Sixpence None the Richer.
Its a far cry from the bands humble beginnings in a Texas
high school. Songwriter and guitarist Matt Slocum wanted to put together a
band to record his first song. I was about four years younger than Matt,
recalls lead singer Leigh Nash. We didnt really have the same friends or
travel in the same social circles, but he heard me sing one time at school
and liked my voice
I think hed had another girl sing the song, but wanted
to see what it would sound like with me singing it. That was the beginning
and we just never stopped working together.
Being a very spiritual band, they took their name from a
story in the C.S. Lewis book Mere Christianity. At first the band
was Slocum, Nash and bassist T.J. Behling. The group started recording
demos and was signed to a religious label. Their first album The
Fatherless and the Widow caused some notice in the religious rock
scene. Behling left the band and their new incarnation, including drummer
Dale Baker, rhythm guitarist Tess Wiley and new bassist J.J Plascencio
toured to support the album and then headed straight into the studio for the
1995 follow-up This Beautiful Mess. By the time they released the
Tickets for the Prayer Wheel EP on the R.E.X. label later the
same year, the band had grown quite a following. Then the business
R.E.X. was having serious money problems, eventually going
out of business. It took the band nearly three years to get out of their
contract and sign with Squint Entertainment. By then the band was bursting
to get their self-titled fourth album out to the people. It came out in
late 1997 and sold relatively well for a Christian rock release. But it was
their least religious platter and it hadnt crossed over as the band had
But a strange thing was happening. The propulsive folk-pop
love song Kiss Me was sticking around the lower reaches of the pop singles
charts for an extremely long time. Normally if a song doesnt take off
right away it fades off into the mists of the charts. That wasnt happening
this time. The song obviously had some people in the business that believed
in it. The first time the we heard Kiss Me on the radio, we were all
together in a van driving out of Austin, Nash says. The station was
starting to break up when the song came on, so we pulled over and got out
and were so excited.
The only problem was to get Kiss Me more exposure to the
general public. A&R exec John Kalodner knew exactly what could break the
song. It became a featured song in a new comedy called Shes All That
starring Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Rachael Leigh Cook. With the added
recognition from the movie and TVs Dawsons Creek, which also took
on the song, it became one of the biggest hit singles of 1999
years after the song was originally released.
We werent expecting that, Nash admits, but we were
working very hard on a daily basis to get the song out there and get it
heard, and so was our record label. They are really good at what they do.
I think it was just a lot of things happening at the right time that made it
finally go over the top.
Kiss Me opened the floodgates for Sixpence. Which is a
double-edged sword, because even though it is a wonderful single, its not
necessarily characteristic of the bands sound. But people started buying
the album and seeing the band live and liked what they heard. I think most
people are pleasantly surprised that were much more than just a pop band,
Nash says. It wasnt our intention to mislead people. It just had
everything to do with the record label and what they wanted the single to
be. But were happy with the way things have gone for the most part.
The album was re-released on Columbia Records. The band
followed up the smash single with another big hit, a remake of the Las
early 90s classic There She Goes. This single was not on the original
Sixpence None the Richer album
the group had been playing it live and
the label urged them to record it as a single, adding the song to later
pressings of the album.
But by now the record was almost three years old and the band
wanted to do new music. They went into the studio and
threw themselves into working on
the follow-up album. All was going great. But then the guys in the suits
intruded again. Now Squint was having serious money problems. And Sixpence
was in limbo again.
The group did their best to keep busy, and to keep in front
of people while they waited for everything to be worked out. They released
a new single called Us from a live recording for NBCs Today Show.
Nash also recorded a solo single called Need To Be Next To You for the Ben
Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow melodrama Bounce. (A remixed version of
the last albums Love was also featured on the soundtrack.) Another
movie single was a remake of ABBAs Dancing Queen for the
Watergate comedy Dick. Nash also lent her vocals to the acclaimed
band Los Straightjackets version of the Skeeter Davis heartbreak classic The
End of the World and the dance floor hit Innocente (Falling In Love) by
very frustrating, Nash recalls, and I think we all dealt with a little bit
of depression because of it. But we tried to stay busy. I did those side
projects and they were fun. And Matt seems to always be playing on other
peoples records. He plays cello and did a bit of that. He spent a year
living in Berkeley and really enjoyed that and made some great friends.
All of us kind of did different things, but still were kind of heartbroken
about the lack of their being a release date for this album. So, were
obviously really, really happy now that its out.
Finally in 2002, after many starts and stops, Curb Records
purchased Squint and the band was let off the hook. Through Curb they were
able to sign a new contract with Reprise Records. But by now it had been
three years since Kiss Me was a hit and almost five years since the last
album was first released.
One casualty of the
long layoff was the loss of long-time drummer Dale Baker.
Actually [on] half the record
Dale was still with the band, so everything
was status quo for five songs on the record. Then he left the band about
midstream. I think he was just ready to
move on. The future was looking uncertain at the time. And all the record
label problems Im sure were very frustrating. But hes moved on, hes got
a child now and hes really happy. By now the bands lineup had pretty
much gone through a total overhaul, with only Nash, Slocum, guitarist Sean
Kelly and bassist Justin Cary still around from the last album. They
rounded out the group with keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden and drummer Rob
The new album,
Divine Discontent, finally saw the light of day in October 2002. It was
worth the wait. It is quite possibly even better than their self-titled
breakthrough album, no small feat since that was a pretty terrific piece of
work on its own.
But Divine Discontent works better as a whole
statement. It covers the wide spectrum of Sixpences music, from the
hauntingly beautiful acoustic pop of the first single Breathe Your Name,
there is also the terrific pop-rock anthem Tonight
and the power-chord
assisted rocker Paralyzed, which features world-weary lyrics many light
years from the bands secular beginnings. Nash gets a stunning vocal
display on the lovely Down and Out of Time, the folky ballad A Million
Parachutes and a terrific cover of the classic Crowded House single Dont
Dream Its Over, which the band recorded for the popular TV series
Surprisingly the band did not include the two-year-old single Us on the
new album, as it had only been released as a live single and was not on any
of the bands albums. Nash explains, We released it for The Today Show
soundtrack and I think that whole experience kind of wore the song out for
us. We felt it was just one of the weaker songs at the end of the day.
One benefit the new album got from the bands popularity is
that for the first time, the group was able to work with some musical
heroes. Particularly exciting was the chance to have legendary Beach Boys
collaborator Van Dyke Parks do the arrangement and string section on
Dizzy. On "Still Burning," they also got to work with David Campbell, possibly best known now
for recording with his son Beck.
Although Sixpence didnt get the final call on making
Breathe Your Name the first single from the album, they are happy how that
worked out. That was the labels choice, and it seems like it will be in
the future as well, Nash says. (But) Breathe Your Name was the
bands choice. We would really like Tonight to be the second single, but
I think theyre going to release Dont Dream Its Over.
time waiting also kept the band mostly off the road. Its been almost three
years since their last tour and Nash cant wait to get back out to play for
the fans. But, she does admit, At this point, we cant wait to get out on
the road and tour. But I think if we were in the middle of a tour, wed say
we cant wait to get back in the studio.
Hopefully this fine new album will open more eyes to Sixpence
None the Richer. I think
Id just like (people) to see us for our entire body of work
for the whole
album and not just for the singles, Nash says. That would be really
nice. And see us as a band that really loves to play music and we make
quality music, that really gets people where they live.
But despite all the starts and stops the business has made
for the band, Nash is very thankful for the exposure the singles and radio
have given Sixpence. Theres
a lot of things that are kind of backwards now with the music industry.
But, weve fortunately been really lucky at radio. They really seem to take
to the songs so far and have gotten really good
feedback from everyone. I have no complaints.
A lot of people think that were just a pop band. Were
much more than that. Nash pauses and laughs. I dont know exactly what
but were a lot more than that.
HERE TO SEE WHAT LEIGH NASH HAD TO SAY TO US IN 1999 ABOUT LIFE WITH
SIXPENCE NONE THE RICHER!
Copyright ©2002 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted
December 23, 2002.
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